Assembly Panel Advances Democratic Legislation To Return Money To Towns For Property Tax Relief

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TRENTON – A key Assembly panel on Thursday advanced Democratic legislation intended to provide roughly $330 million in additional property tax relief to residents by restoring hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cuts to the amount municipalities received in their share of state energy tax revenues and municipal aid.

The bill (A-2921) is sponsored by Assemblymen Troy Singleton, John Burzichelli, Gary Schaer, Wayne DeAngelo, Albert Coutinho, Daniel Benson and Vincent Prieto.

“In the past, every dollar taken from our towns was an additional dollar taken from property taxpayers and now every dollar taken from our towns means decreased services and less value to taxpayers,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). With this innovative approach, we not only provide municipalities with the revenues they deserve, but also further insulate taxpayers by requiring it to go for property tax relief.”

“This is right thing to do for our communities and our taxpayers,” said Burzichelli (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem. “The two percent property tax cap has made it harder and harder for municipalities to get by without cutting services, making this funding all the more important.”

The bill would restore the cuts made to the Consolidated Municipal Property Tax Relief Aid (CMPTRA) program and the Energy Tax Receipts (ETR) Property Tax Relief Aid program in fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011. The funds would be provided over a five-year span, with the first payment coming in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 when municipalities would receive an aid increase equal to 20% of the difference between their total payment of CMPTRA and ETR in Fiscal Year 2008 and Fiscal Year 2012.

Municipalities would receive equal increases in each of the following four fiscal years. The fully restored amount would be distributed beginning in State Fiscal Year 2017 and in each fiscal year thereafter.

“Since this revenue has been raided, we’ve seen the property tax crisis worsen. This is no coincidence and we need to remedy the situation,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This will hold Trenton accountable while helping towns tow the line on property taxes.”

“Towns and property taxpayers, alike, are struggling to make ends meet,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “We’ve heard a similar refrain from mayors all over the state. It’s time to return this money to where it belongs.”

The returned energy tax revenues would be statutorily dedicated to property tax relief, and municipalities would still be subject to the state’s current two percent property tax cap.

The bill also extends the existing “poison pill” on the ETR program to CMPTRA to ensure that the state lives up to its obligation to municipalities through the budget. Under the measure, if the state’s annual appropriations act doesn’t provide the required one-fifth increments over the next five years, the entire Corporation Business Tax would sunset.

“Fiscal games shouldn’t be played with property tax relief. Trenton needs to be held accountable to local taxpayers and that’s what we hope to accomplish with this measure,” said Coutinho (D-Essex).

“Towns up and down the state have been struggling to stay within the new two percent property tax cap. Robbing them of this much-needed aid makes that all the harder and residents are the ones who have paid the price through decreased services,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).

“This measure will make sure that towns continue to receive their full amount of aid, and that local property tax relief is maximized,” said Prieto (D-Hudson).

The measure was approved 8-4 by the Assembly Budget Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

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